Patrice Bernier chose to abandon his hockey career when it was traded from Val d’Or Fourours to Sherbrooke Falcons in his second season at QMJHL in 1998.
The future Montreal Impact Commander felt betrayed and struggled to deal with the forced departure of this team he had adopted, and forced to uproot himself, a year earlier.
He finished the season at Sherbrooke, but then switched to football full time by joining the Syracuse University team, before signing his first professional contract with Impact.
His career choice was finally a good one. He had to work hard on the small pro circles before hoping to make it to the NHL, while football covered him with glory and determined his existence.
Patrice Bernier undoubtedly would have liked to have had an attentive ear in the middle of a little hockey game to better deal with his emotions at the time.
The greatest footballer in Quebec history also had to live with the daily ups and downs of a black athlete in the assertive white hockey world, in a somewhat more folkloric era of Quebec junior hockey.
Help is within reach of players
When Natasha Lorenz, QMJHL’s Director of Player Services, called him recently to call for him to form a seven-member committee to update and improve the player assistance program, Bernier agreed immediately.
“When I was playing at QMJHL, we were told unacceptable things,” he says over the phone. We no longer tolerate that day. In the way you talk to players and support them. We didn’t know much in the past. We want to show the players that help in all forms is within their reach. ”
Other members of this “wise” committee include Francois Bernier, a retired Montreal Police Department officer, and expert on Blainville-Boisbriand Armada; Francois Boisvert, Senior Educator at the Syna-Psy Clinic, expert in Shawinigan cataracts; Sylvain Crotto, General Manager Sport’Aide; Simon Janney, ex-QMJHL player and attorney at Lavery Avocats; Sylvan Gaimond is a sports psychologist, lecturer and author of several books. Isabelle Leclerc, Distinguished Athletic Director, and Senior Women’s Hockey Coach with the University of Montreal’s Carabins.
“There were times when there were assaults and abuse when I was playing,” continues Patrice Bernier. If I know there are reference people I can contact this would help me. And not just in terms of distinction but for dealing with stress in general.
“We are asked to be prepared for the NHL. We have a lot of things to manage. We always focus on the physical and technical side of the game, and we forget that there is a psychological aspect not only to help the young man but also to increase his performance. The young students remain with their anxieties and doubts.”
The psychological aspect of this environment is often forgotten. “Unlike other individual sports like tennis or golf, where there are life coaches and psychologists, this has always been a taboo in team sport.”
We have to open our eyes and give the tools to everyone, not just the players, but the coaches, the parents and the managers.
QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Corto is pleased with the arrival of Patrice Bernier, who recently left his position as Assistant Coach for CF Montreal to dedicate himself more to his family and join the TVA Sports team.
“To have such a trustworthy person who represents so much for all of the sport in Quebec is a big plus,” says Gil Courto. For us, it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity, as a league, to bring a former player back into our ranks, regardless of position.
“He is a man with a great career in football and QMJHL is, in short, a great professional athlete. I am very happy that he can share his experience internally, but also he can attest to the progress we have made in terms of coaching our players since his years in Val d’Or. He will help us see how We can always be the best we can do to support our players, in various ways over the years, on and off the ice. ”
Patrice Bernier is pleased to note that the initiative of Gail Corto and Natasha Lorenz, in this leading league in many respects in the country, will allow young people to receive assistance that they have never been able to obtain.
“Hockey seems to be moving forward. Help program, I realize we’ve seen a lot in the last year. We need to be more present and show young people that the tools are there.”
In cooperation with Henri Ouellette-Vézina, Journalism
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